Filed under: Earth Day | Tags: Compost, French marigolds, frugal, Global Warming, growing food, repurposing, reusing, root knot nematodes, sustainability, sustainable energy sources, vinegar uses, Waste reduction, zero waste lifestyle
April 22nd is Earth Day. hooray. I’m very happy we have that one internationally-recognized day a year to celebrate this beautiful blue planet, but we simply cannot continue to honor our mother only once every 365 days. The well-respected ‘science guy’, Bill Nye recently said,” We must engage political hopefuls and elected officials on the topic of global warming.” I say, we must also support our farmers and learn to eat a sustainable, diversified diet of foods (and medicines!) grown within our local regions. We must commit to a near zero waste lifestyle, while learning to reuse and repurpose everything that comes through our lives. We must support alternative energies, even if they are in our backyards. We simply must clean up our act and take better care of our earthly home.
To that end, I have been thinking about ways we can make the needed changes, going beyond the same old advice about carrying our own shopping bags and changing our light bulbs. By the way, compact florescent bulbs are now ‘old’ technology and have been replaced by LED bulbs in both output and energy usage. Check them out. (While you’re at it, turn the lights off when you leave a room if you didn’t learn that in third grade.) Buying our way out of hard to solve problems is not the answer but if you are going to buy bulbs anyway, please consider LEDs next time. Or better yet, set up a small solar panel on the tool shed and expand your array as you can afford it.
I think what started out as a post about planning and planting our gardens this spring made me realize how even the choices we make there are important in terms of how we treat the earth. Do you rotate the things you grow every other year or two, giving your soil a chance to rebuild it’s microbiological life and replenish what was taken from it the year before? Are you using at least some open pollinated seeds so that the seeds can be saved from your best plants year to year? Are you improving your soil by continuously making and adding compost, growing cover crops, or adding worm castings? Is your water supply for your garden sustainable? Are you capturing rainwater and using thick mulches to avoid evaporation and weeds growing? Growing food without the inputs of commercial chemicals, fertilizers and hybrid seeds is the best way to grow healthy food that doesn’t cost you-and the earth-an arm and a leg.
In the fall of 2014 when I was pulling up a spent tomato plant I discovered what looked to be evidence of root knot nematode damage. I took a picture of the tomato root and emailed it to my county extension agent and he diagnosed it. I spent the winter reading all I could about the soil pest and ended up planting the whole bed last summer to a special French marigold that was touted as THE best for helping to eliminate it…
Commercial nematicides are very toxic and very expensive but this package of seeds-with shipping-was less than $5.00. I stored the extra seeds wrapped tightly in my deep freezer in case I have more problems in the future. You can see from the picture what a beautiful solution it was!
Here’s another example of ways to solve a problem using what you have on hand: I run vinegar through my coffee pot on the first of each month to keep hard water deposits from building up inside of it. Once it’s run through, I pour the HOT vinegar on weeds. This picture was taken just 20 hours after the pour.
The hot vinegar works just as well as a toxic weedkiller and would’ve been ‘wasted’ had I just dumped it down the kitchen sink. Once I run the vinegar through, I follow that with a potful of plain water to remove all traces of it. I use that quart of hot water to pour down my bathtub drain where it promptly melts accumulated soap and keeps the drain running smoothly. Those weeds are dead. No chemicals used, and I solved two problems with one stone. Just sayin’…
Today I transplanted some of my early veggie starts into larger pots so that they can grow more freely until it’s time to plant them in the garden. The pots and trays have been reused many times over, and the ‘potting soil’ is some of our fine crumbly compost made from household and yard wastes. Absolutely nothing was purchased new to provide us with another season of healthy, delicious organic veggies. I even collect rainwater for watering them since I don’t like the idea of adding fluoride to my broccoli!
All of this is simply to say:
One final thought I’d like you to think about: “There is no ‘away’, as in “Throw it away“. Every day is Earth Day!
Don’t get me wrong, April 22nd is special in its’ own right. But honestly folks, we can’t save Mother Earth from destruction by just thinking about it on this date. I know the title of this post is overused, but when my daughter’s best friend from high school posted it on her own Facebook page this morning, and my daughter then reminded her how I would ‘preach it’ every year on this date, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it’s NOT overused. Maybe, just maybe, if we can influence our own, and other, generations to remember that innocuous but important little slogan, we’ll actually all to take it to heart. And I still don’t think it’s too late, just a bigger task now.
I recently completed a 6 week discussion course, along with 8 others, called “Seeing Systems: Peace, Justice and Sustainability”. It’s one of the few courses I’ve taken that has had a lasting impact on me. Two weeks after it’s finished, I find I actually miss our weekly discussions and brain storming sessions, the chapter readings and the ‘action items’ the course workbook inspired us to. If I had to recap it, these are the two thoughts the course left me with:
1. We simply cannot have peace, justice and sustainability on this earth and in our lives as long as our Earth is being raped and trashed every second of every day. We are interconnected with every single thing here on Earth and because of that interconnection, we’re ALL part of the problem as well as part of the solution. NOT just on April 22nd.
2. It’s way easier to talk the talk than to walk the talk. I’ve been talking the talk for 45 years. I have tried to walk it too, but somehow, life gets crazy, good intentions get pushed to the background, and suddenly I’m considering buying a Keurig ‘brewing system’! (not really folks, I’m just using that as what I consider one of the WORST current examples of consumerism and environmental pollution that’s on the market; it’s right up there with Hummers)
Those two lasting impressions have left me with a bittersweet taste in my mouth and are pressing on me today especially, leaving me wondering where to go from here? I’m also wondering how does this blog fit in with Earth Day? I’m pretty sure most of my smart readers ‘get the connection’, but in case you haven’t yet, let me spell it out: If we collectively plan and act early enough, we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. It is (past) time to take stock and to start re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community. In the transition to that way of living, we’ll inadvertently clean up the earth too.
Since our Earth is a living thing, it has to be cared for like any other living thing. People, plants, mushrooms, rivers, animals, oceans, our beloved Appalachian mountains and even my nemesis, slugs- we’re all living things. If we suck all the life out of our earthly home, there won’t be enough left to support us, much less future generations of slugs or children. My granddaughter called me today to tell me she wants to join the Peace Corps. My heart literally SINGS at the thought of her humanitarianism, and yet breaks in anguish that people all over the world (still) don’t have the basics of food, clean water and safe shelter, much less Keurigs and Hummers. There’s no peace, justice or sustainability in that for millions of humans.
P.S. Let’s stop being like the abusive partner that sends flowers. I am chairperson for my local Livable Communities group. I plan to propose to our group at our next meeting that we begin the process and work to have Styrofoam banned in our town. Is that possible? Didn’t we live well before the advent of this product that takes 1 million years to decompose, kills millions of birds, fish and mammals each year and is made from petroleum? Let the work begin!
Filed under: Community Gardens, Earth Day, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism, Reducing Waste | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, growing food, outdoors, root crops, Solar Cooker, the good life, Waste reduction
As the weather warms, I’m enjoying being in the garden and eating fresher home-grown foods, while still using up the bounty from last year’s garden. We ate beets, carrots, parsnips, green onions, lettuce and spinach this week, and because Michael’s chemo treatments don’t allow him to eat raw foods, I tried a new recipe for Creamed Spinach. It was really, really good. With a lot of sunshine, we cooked outside this week, on the grill and in the solar cooker, and even went to a picnic last night, so I know summer’s on its way. As you know, frugality isn’t just about saving money. It’s equally about saving time, resources, and energy (both personal and grid type). This week was a strange conglomeration of all of those things, with less about money than usual.
Monday: Got my old washing machine repaired, and it only cost $120, and that included two visits to my home-one to diagnose the problem, and the second visit to replace the part that had to be ordered. It’s running great, and I’m happy that it wasn’t the kind of repair bill that made me question whether I should fix it or buy new. Savings over new: Geez, who knows? The point is really about taking care of, and using up, what we already own, rather than buying new.
Tuesday: Every freaking day is Earth Day as far as I’m concerned. We cannot ‘save the earth’ only recognizing it one day a year and after 40+ years of ‘celebrating’ the day, I see more environmental destruction and degradation than ever. That said, I still feel a ‘thrill’ when it’s mentioned, or when I know deep down inside that I’m living it every day, in every way, that I possibly can. In light of that, Earth Day is always the time of year that I’m trying to get my garden plot ready for planting and heavy summer production. Living in a downtown urban area doesn’t lend itself well to finding animal manure for composting and fertilization, unless you count the piles of dog shit in the park. But a fellow gardening friend took pity on my whining about the lack of poo, and we were both able to drive our trucks on a beautiful spring morning out into the country, to a local alpaca farm, where the animals’ owner filled both trucks with huge loads of FREE composted manure with her little mini front loader! Not only did I get to personally meet the gang responsible for this wonderful windfall…
…when I got back to the community garden, I got help unloading it from several friends that happened to be in the
wrong right place at the wrong right time! Priceless!
Wednesday: Expecting company for dinner, I decided that my stove top could use a good scrubbing and cleaning. I like to line my burner pans with foil to catch drips, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to scrub them. It was time to change the foil. See how clean it looks now? This was a 15 minute job (I should’ve taken a before picture for comparison but forgot to) Savings? Hours of scrubbing!
Thursday: Remember my telling you about how Michael and I enjoy volunteering with our local university’s arts department? Not only is it a great way to support the arts, we earn free tickets for our time too. But all of the volunteers were invited to a wonderful end of year ‘thank you’ picnic last night, complete with an old-time band and contra dance after the meal! The catered meal was fabulous, we got to meet and eat with old friends, and then dance off the calories afterwards. Savings? Priceless!
Friday: Continuing the cleanup of my oven required me to use a Brillo-type steel wool pad on some spots. I always cut the new pads in two, which sharpens my scissors and results in fewer pads being thrown away due to rust. 1/2 a pad almost always does the job. Savings? Well, it’s like getting a free box cutting them in half like that, AND it cuts down on the waste they make since they rust badly if you try to ‘save’ them after a use. Just sayin’…
As you see, there were no big dollar savings this week to speak of, but again, all the little things do add up to big savings in all the areas of our lives. Whether it’s cutting brillo pads in two or dancing and picnicking with friends, I consider it an art to live my life in an abundant and meaningful way as I transition to a lifestyle that is based on lower energy, less money, climate changes and an economy that will NEVER return to “the way it used to be”. I hope my blog inspires you to find your own ways to become more creatively resilient, and to use your own local resources to their fullest. Have a beautiful weekend!
Filed under: Alternative Gifting, Buy Local, Earth Day, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism | Tags: Bread, Consumerism, Creating community, Earth Day, Farmer's Market, food, frugal, frugality, Grow Appalachia, Lavender Tea Bread, water conservation, wood fired oven
I’ve stayed at home most of this week, either in the garden or finishing up some easy ‘indoor’ projects that were on my winter ‘to-do’ list. Un huh, I KNOW winter is over but such is life. I save the most time, energy and money when I stay home, because I don’t spend money here, so there’s not a lot of dollar savings this week, but one special one I want to share with you.
Monday: In my position as the Carver Peace Gardens coordinator, it falls to me to make sure the tools and equipment we offer the community gardeners are kept in working order. Enter: ‘Big Red’ the 20+ year old Troybilt tiller that’s still got plenty of life left in her if people would just treat her kindly. Anyway, seems a gardener pulled Big Red out of the toolshed and ‘she was broken’. As in, one of the handlebars made of 1″ steel tubing was sheared in two. We are a nonprofit of course, and our bank account reflects that. (There’s really no bank account, it’s all kept in an envelope in my desk drawer 😉 because the bank wanted a $3 a month service charge for balances under $1000.) Which is every month. But I digress..I figured a weld would fix it so I called the nearby high school and spoke with the weld-shop instructor there, who said if we’d bring Big Red to their on- campus shop, the students would fix her pronto. I did, the instructor was the only one on hand when I arrived, so he welded it expertly for free for me in about 5 minutes. I don’t know what this would’ve cost to have it welded at a local shop but the instructor’s good nature and encouragement to bring all my future welding projects to the school was: Priceless
See that large black spot of welding on that handlebar, down near the engine? Fine job!
Tuesday: Last week Michael and I met friends at a local bakery for breakfast. Smoky Mountain Bakers in Roan Mountain has great breakfast sandwiches, along with fresh breads and pizzas that are baked in their wood fired oven. We paid $1 a piece for bagels to bring home and it inspired Michael to try his hand at making them. Though not as beautiful as the bakery’s -YET- the cinammon/raisin wonders were really delicious and we figured they only cost about 10 cents a piece to make. He made six on his first attempt, saving us $6.00 since there was also tax on those bakery bagels. Let me say this about those bakery bagels before I move on: The hard working couple that own that Roan Mountain bakery (and all other entrepreneurs like them) deserve our business and support but that’s simply not possible since their bakery is a 35 minute drive from my home. To my knowledge, there are no locally owned bagel shops near me, and until there is, we’ll continue to make our own baked goods. The Farmer’s Market is opening next weekend, with several vendors selling fresh baked bread there that we’ll try to support during the summer months when we don’t like to heat up the kitchen with oven baking anyway. But, that’s next week. Just sayin’…
Wednesday: This time of year finds us watering trays of seedlings twice a day, using almost 1/2 gallon each time. We’ve started pouring the water collected in our dehumidifier into the watering can and using that de-gassed water for this chore. Savings: 7 gallons a week x 4 weeks= 28 gallons, enough to wash my car and a sink full of fresh spinach! I’m noticing more documentaries, webinars, books and blogs devoted to our growing water crisis, and I heard a speaker at the local college last night say our next wars will be over water, not oil. If not already, we all might as well get accustomed to being as frugal with our water as with everything else in our lives. Do your part, don’t waste a single drop!
Thursday: About that speaker: our local college brought him here from Berea College in KY as part of their month-long Earth Day celebration. His name is David Cooke, and he is the director of Grow Appalachia, a nonprofit that is planting seeds for a sustainable future here in the Southern Appalachians. His foundation is doing good work and he’s trying to expand their reach into my area of TN, which is why he was here. There was no charge for the presentation, there were great snacks, and I got a free Earth Day tee shirt, all while listening to an engaging speaker talk about some of the very things this blog ponders! Again, if you live in or near a college town, take advantage of all they offer beyond the paid classes! My new teeshirt —————————————–>
Friday: OK, I’m stretching here, including this on Frugal Friday, but it’s definitely consistent with what this blog is all about, and that is eating locally, using resources wisely, and building community. New neighbors have been moving in this week and I decided to take them a spring time loaf of Lavender Tea Bread as a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ gift. I’ll be dropping it off to them this afternoon when I walk by their house to go to the drugstore. As a special bonus, I’m going to give you the recipe for this bread because it is frugal and fabulous. It used my home-ground locally raised wheat, eggs from my friend Sandy’s eggs, lavender from my own plants and sugar, lots of sugar 😉
Lavender Tea Bread
3//4 cup milk (I used soy)
2 TB dried lavender flowers, finely chopped or 3 T fresh flowers
2 C all purpose flour (I used half AP and half wheat)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 TB butter, softened
1 C Sugar
2 large eggs
Filed under: beekeeping, Buy Local, Community Building, Community Gardens, Contributionism, Earth Day, Liveable Communities, Local Food | Tags: networking
As I listened to my husband’s metronome keeping time while he practiced some music, and as I heard the minutes ticking by on the old mantle clock, I realized I haven’t been able to post here as often as I like lately because of time constraints. But, I always seem to make time for the things that are most important to me, and this blog is one of those things. I’m currently putting together a presentation on ‘Natural Beekeeping’ for the local beekeeper’s annual school that’s coming up in March; it’s a topic that would never have been considered 10 years ago when we first got into beekeeping! But with the passage of time has come new knowledge of how to be better beekeepers without using all the harsh methods that we were advised to use then. Now there are practices that offer the bees kinder, gentler, more natural ways of maintaining good health in their hives. (here’s a link to more info about the bee school: http://www.wcbeekeepersassociation.com/
Michael and I are also marking time again while he undergoes his final chemo treatments. We’re on Week 3 of 10, spaced every other week, so we’re looking at mid-June before it’s all done. With spring just 3 weeks away, the demands of serving as the coordinator of the community garden are at a seasonal high, marked by meetings, plantings, grant writing and more. To that end, there will be a seed swap and giveaway this evening at the Carver Center, (where the gardens are located) at 6 PM. You don’t have to have seeds to swap, just a true desire to plant some, whether at the community garden or in your own home garden. Following that will be the application and screening process of potential new gardeners to fill the five vacant plots that are available this spring. If you’d like to have a plot, be sure to be there at 7 PM for that. It’s important to be ON TIME. Michael has decided to start a monthly newsletter for the Community Garden and has been spending a lot of his time putting together the first edition.
There’s also our church that we like to contribute our time, talent and money to, friendships to nurture, new songs and music to learn and play, soups to simmer and loaves of bread to bake, errands to run and exercise to make time for each day as well. Oh yeah, and watching Netflix too! All these things take time, and when you’re ‘our age’, they demand plenty of rest as well, but luckily, I find writing is restful for me. I like writing this blog, sharing with you ideas that we can use to make our lives more resilient, healthier or simply more joyful! The ideas take time to research, to write about, and certainly to implement, but I consider it time well spent. Our retirement years have been fulfilling and busy to say the least, but these activities serve to give meaning and purpose to my life, and I get back far more than I give.
I’ve recently accepted the position as the chair for the ‘Livable Communities’ group that is a subcommittee of a larger group called “Community Partnerships”. We have developed a strategic plan based on feedback that was given at the Economic Summits that took place in 2011 and 2012. Turns out that the results of the surveys that were taken at those summits show that some of the very things that I’ve been writing about here are also the very things that folks felt were most important to them: supporting local food growing efforts by developing community gardens while at the same time increasing our resilience, beautifying the city by increasing greenway spaces, improving public transportation, developing interconnected beautiful, clean and safe bike and walking paths, and encouraging new and repurposed commercial and residential development in the downtown area, are just some of the things that our group will be looking at. They’re important enough to me to make the time to help implement them, and will be an endless source of things to share with you on this blog in the months to come. I like the solutions-oriented approach we’re using, and feel it’s a good use of our time together. Our meetings will be held only every other month, with the next one scheduled for March 18th at 5 PM at my house. A schedule any more ambitious than that might prove to be too time consuming, but, every other month? Even I can fit that in, and I hope you can too! We’d love to have your input and ideas, as well as your TIME, in helping our community become a more livable and resilient place to live. Yes, it IS about time you joined us. If you need directions, let me know. Check us out on Facebook in the meantime:
One final note: After giving this post a bit more thought, I want to make this clear: this is NOT meant to be a guilt-inducing blog post! Working parents, students, business owners, caregivers and all you others that are already busier than you want to be shouldn’t feel that my invitations to ‘come’, ‘join’ or ‘help’ are slanted at you. You’re already doing your part! I’m appealing here to those lucky souls like myself that have empty nests, work only a few hours a week, or just, in general, find themselves with time to spare. Forming friendships and working on projects that help me as much as the one’s they’re designed for, all while improving my own life as my community becomes a better place to live, is a win-win situation for me. Pick something that’s important to you and carve out some time for it. You won’t be sorry, I’m sure of it.
Filed under: Climate Change, Earth Day, Global Warming, Green Cleaners, Reducing Waste | Tags: growing food, Waste reduction
On this Earth Day, I’m in the middle of a thoughtful and troubling book with the same title as this post. It’s written by Helen Caldicott, and her message is so much on my mind today that I felt inspired to tell you some of what I’m learning from her book. First let me say that the author spoke right here in my city last year, and I MISSED HER TALK!! Michael heard her speak many years ago, out in California, but I wasn’t able to go hear her locally, and I’ve regretted it ever since-especially now that I’m reading this book. Ms. Caldicott is a co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility and was named one of the most influential women of the twentieth century by the Smithsonian Institute. She hosts the weekly radio program “If You Love This Planet” and is the author of numerous books, none of which I’ve read-until now. Since I don’t want this post to turn into a book report, I decided to pick one thing that I can do to make a better world, and let you read the book for yourself (yes, it’s in the library).
After a lot of thought, several conversations, and some quiet meditation time on this matter, I know what I can do to make a better world. It came to me while recalling a conversation that I had at church yesterday with my friend Deanna. She said my blog inspires her; not necessarily to DO something, but it simply inspires her. And you know what? That’s good enough. I hope I can inspire you too, just like Ms Caldicott has inspired me with her writing. I changed my damn light bulbs years ago, I gave up meat, I grow food, geez, I even moved to town so I could become more dependent on my feet and my bicycle to get me to the places I need to go. I carry my tote bags to the store, I make my own green cleaners, and I don’t throw things ‘away’ (since there is no ‘away’) and still, the CO2 levels are rising, the seas are rising and the temperatures are rising. In other words, I don’t feel like my individual actions are having much effect except on my own personal life. But yet another conversation just this morning has given me a new idea. Tonya said ‘we need POLICIES’ to be made to protect the earth and our grandchildren. President O’bama will make his decision about the Keystone Pipeline project by the end of the year. The State Department’s official public comment period about it is now. You can sign a petition against the Tar Sands project by signing it here: http://act.350.org/letter/a_million_strong_against_keystone/ OR you can make your voice heard by sending an email to: email@example.com. I’m trying to make a better world by inspiring you to help make policies that will be best for the future of our country and our planet. I’ve never asked anything of you, dear reader. But this is important.Please take one minute-today!- to comment. One minute. One Earth. Pass it on too, then let me know in the comments section below if you’re inspired enough to take action. Together, we can do this.
Filed under: Backyard Chickens, beekeeping, Climate Change, Community Building, Community Gardens, Creating Community, Earth Day, Peak Oil, Resilience, Urban Hens, Urban Living | Tags: next door
I thought you might need some good news, something to brighten this dreary post-bombing day. Here’s what’s beautiful in my neighborhood this week:
* My daily walk took me on a different route, where I discovered a lively new beehive in one neighbor’s suburban driveway! I wrote a card and told ‘them’ I was very happy to see their bees and that I support their efforts, then delivered it in person to their door. If you see your neighbor planting a garden, tending their chickens, hanging their clothes out or some other such similar effort to live their urban life in a way that supports the things you care about, a supportive voice might be appreciated by them~and, you may make a new friend in the process!
* I’m making more of a point to engage the two young men that live next door to us. They have a new puppy, are grad students at the local university and seem truly nice. They’re slowly warming up by asking questions about us, our dog, our current backyard project of raised bed building, etc. It’s nice to know Ryan and what’s-his-name 😦 OK, so I forgot one name, but I’ll make it a point to ‘get it’ again soon-the pup’s name is Pippa)
* We’re taking part in our neighborhood’s annual cleanup tomorrow, as part of the Great American Cleanup. I plan to go over early to help the graffiti cleanup team, then Michael and I are giving a ‘State of the Community Garden’ address at the community center.
* Our ‘neighborhood association’, a fun, loose-knit group, is planning a walk-about porch party May 4th. Similar to the Christmas walk-about, neighbors walk to the designated hosts porches this time, where we’ll be served each family’s signature drink and a
#!hor derve?&% snack. I love this idea and am already looking forward to my new hood’s annual July 4th party too! You can start a similar group for your hood by signing up at: https://westholston.nextdoor.com/refer/?is=nfhd (and if you let me REFER you before you launch your own website, we’ll BOTH win a $50 Starbucks gift card. It’s an easy, relaxed way to stay connected with your neighbors, I promise. And of course, if you ever ARE in a ‘lock in/cell-phones-down’ situation like those folks are in Boston today, you can still connect and communicate.
“From oil dependence to local resilience”. I feel strongly that building community with our neighbors is going to be KEY to our ability to respond to the challenges of climate change, resource depletion and global inequity that we are facing. Seeing the residents of cities and towns come together when they are under duress-from Newtown to Boston-proves that it’s our neighbors and friends that we’ll turn to when times are hard. Making those connections is so much easier, and definitely more fun, when you’re NOT in a stressful or tragic situation. It’s spring- get out and find out what’s beautiful in your neighborhood too!